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Engineering Machinist

Kaiwhakamahi Pūrere

Alternative titles for this job

Engineering machinists use machines to cut and shape precision parts and equipment. They create, install, maintain and repair metal products, including machinery and equipment in factories.

Pay

Engineering machinists with one to two years' experience usually earn

$34K-$40K per year

Highly skilled and qualified engineering machinists working in large factories usually earn

$80K-$110K per year

Source: Southern Institute of Technology, 2017

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as an engineering machinist are good due to a shortage of workers.

Pay

Pay for engineering machinists depends on where they work and how much experience they have.

  • Apprentice engineering machinists and those with less than two years' experience usually earn between $34,000 and $40,000 a year.
  • Engineering machinists with two to five years' experience usually earn between $40,000 and $80,000.
  • Highly skilled and qualified senior engineering machinists working in large complex factories can earn from $80,000 to $110,000. 

Source: Southern Institute of Technology, 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Engineering machinists may do some or all of the following:

  • study and interpret engineering drawings and instructions
  • design tools and equipment using computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • decide on suitable materials and working methods
  • measure and mark out materials for cutting
  • set and operate machines to cut and shape the materials
  • check measurements and weld parts together
  • test finished products.

Engineering machinists working in maintenance may also:

  • carry out maintenance checks on machines and diagnose faults
  • clean and repair machines and their parts
  • manufacture and install new machinery.

Skills and knowledge

Engineering machinists need to have:

  • knowledge of different metals and machinery
  • the ability to read and interpret plans and drawings
  • practical skills to operate tools and computer-controlled machinery
  • knowledge of construction methods and materials
  • skills with computer-aided design (CAD) software and computerised numerical control (CNC) machines
  • welding skills.

Working conditions

Engineering machinists:

  • work regular business hours in engineering workshops, or rotating shifts such as two days and two nights on, then four days off in a factory running 24 hours a day
  • work in workshops or factories
  • work in conditions that may be dirty, noisy, hot or cramped.

What's the job really like?

Coulton Finch

Toolmaker

As a toolmaker that specialises in working with plastics, Coulton Finch works on producing a variety of gadgets and devices, ranging from camera casings to parts for a new dish drawer.

From concept to finished product

Coulton is involved throughout the manufacturing process, from drawing up plans on the computer to machining, grinding and hand polishing the final product.

"Usually we get an idea or 3-D drawing from the customer and they'll tell us what they want it made out of or we'll give them a specification for materials. Then we put it into a tool, cut the required shape into it and send it out to the plastics factory where they squirt plastic into it and make hundreds or thousands of items from that one tool."

Making a tool can be a long but rewarding process

Because of the nature of the tools he's creating, it's not unusual for Coulton to spend up to 450 hours working on a particular tool. "It's not unheard of to make something three times before you get it right," he jokes.

But he says that when the job's done, all of the hours are worth it.

"Finishing a product and having the customer come back and say it was really good – that's great."

Engineering machinist video

Marlene talks about life as an engineering apprentice – 2.28 mins. (Video courtesy of Competenz)

Marlene Harmer:

Kia ora, I’m Marlene Harmer, I’m 23 and I’m doing mechanical engineering apprenticeship at Ravensdown at Awatoto in Napier – loving it!

I’ve always wanted to be a deep-sea diver, and I found out one of my uncles, his brother was a deep-sea commercial diver, and he was telling me all about this under-water welding, and I thought, “That sounds pretty cool,” and I decided that one day I wanted to give it a crack, and so I thought I’d give engineering a crack, see if I like it which I do – I love it!

After I finished my pre-apprentice trade course: 27th CV lucky! Got me this job! I’ve been here for about just over a year and I’m loving the job because there’s heaps of variety in the work, and there’s never a boring moment, to be honest – like you’re doing something different every day.

And another thing I love about my job is the people I work with. They make my job good to come to. You look forward to coming to work when you are working with a good bunch.

So there’s heaps of perks in doing an apprenticeship, I reckon. Earning and learning, that’s the buzz about it – like you might not start off on the greatest amount of money but you’ve got to see it in the long sight [take the long view] like you will eventually get there.

As you’re earning money in the job you’re just learning life skills and skills you can take all over the place. It’s pretty cool.

I’d definitely recommend, any trade, or anything you want to do – don’t think about the short-term pluses and minuses, you’ve got to think about the long-term at the same time.

But there’s so much opportunities – travelling the world, yep, so I pretty much feel like I’m on my way now. I stepped pretty much into the deep end, didn’t know much about engineering a couple of years ago but now I do! And I feel like I’m on a roll, to getting to where my dream is.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements to become an engineering machinist.

However, most employers prefer you to have either:

  • New Zealand Certificate in Mechanical Engineering (Trade) Level 4, which is the new qualification 
  • or National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering (Trade) Level 4, which will be replaced by the New Zealand Certificate.

In your last year of training you specialise in one of the following strands – Fitting and Machining, General Engineering, Machining, Maintenance Engineering, Metal Forming or Toolmaking.

Apprentice Training NZ (ATNZ) employs, trains and places mechanical engineering apprentices. You can also be able to get an apprenticeship directly through an employer. 

The Competenz Industry Training Organisation oversees mechanical engineering apprenticeships. 

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but maths, physics, and construction and mechanical technologies to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful. 

For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme in engineering is a good way to gain industry experience.

Personal requirements

Engineering machinists need to be:

  • very accurate and patient
  • able to follow instructions
  • responsible and safety-conscious
  • good communicators
  • able to make good judgements
  • able to work well independently, and as part of a team.

It's mentally challenging because you're working with high accuracy all the time.

Wayne Muschamp

Toolmaker

Useful experience

Useful experience for engineering machinists includes work:

  • using hand tools
  • with plastics, wood or metals, and woodwork and metalwork machinery
  • in an industrial workshop
  • as a labourer
  • using welding and sheet metal.

Physical requirements

Engineering machinists need:

  • to be reasonably fit, healthy and strong as they may do heavy lifting
  • good hand-eye co-ordination and steady hands
  • good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses)
  • to be comfortable working in confined spaces and at heights as they may need to climb ladders and crawl around machinery.

Find out more about training

Competenz
0800 526 1800 - info@competenz.org.nz - www.competenz.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Engineering machinists in demand

Engineering machinists are in demand because:

  • not enough people are being trained to meet the demand for workers
  • trained workers are leaving New Zealand to work overseas for higher pay rates
  • New Zealand manufacturers need workers to build machinery components for export
  • factories operating 24 hours a day need workers on-site at all times to maintain and fix machinery.

Two types of engineering machinist on skill shortage lists

Fitter-welder appears on Immigration New Zealand's construction and infrastructure skill shortage list and metal machinist (first class) appears on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled engineering machinists from overseas to work in New Zealand.

Aging workforce of engineering machinists

Over half of all engineering machinists are aged over 45, and 25% are over 55. Because the job is physically demanding, they may leave the industry when they reach retirement age, which could create further demand for engineering machinists.

However, this role can be affected by economic conditions. A downturn in the economy can lower demand for engineering machinists.

Types of employers varied

Engineering machinists may be employed by:

  • specialist machining companies
  • engineering workshops
  • manufacturers of industrial machines and equipment, domestic appliances and plastic products
  • industrial sites such as milk powder factories.

Sources

  • Book, S, 'Manufacturing Bounces Back in September', NBR, 13 October 2016.
  • Competenz website, accessed March 2017, (www.competenz.org.nz).
  • Hartley, B, engineering tutor, Southern Institute of Technology, Careers New Zealand intervew, March 2017.
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List', 17 December 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', 25 June 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Manning, B, 'Gloombusters: Bringing Manufacturing Home,' New Zealand Herald, 6 August 2015.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Engineering machinists may progress to a supervisor or manager role, or move into areas such as product design, management or technical sales.

Engineering machinists specialise in one of the following roles:

Fitter and machinist
Fitters and machinists make machine parts for factories.
Machinist
Machinists make precision parts.
General engineer
General engineers carry out a wide range of maintenance work including welding and fabrication.
Maintenance Engineer
Maintenance engineers maintain and fix machinery and production lines in factories.
Toolmaker
Toolmakers make specalised tools, and moulds and casts (shapes which are filled), and dies (used to press out shapes) that are used to produce metal or plastic products.
Metal Former
Metal formers make products from molten metal.
A female apprentice watches as an older worker programmes a CNC machine

Engineering machinists may work with CNC machines programmed to control tools such as lathes

Last updated 4 February 2019